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Silent PC not silent! Please help!!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by guitarjazzman, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    I have just registered with recording.org and am in desperate need of help!

    About six months ago I decided to revamp my studio and invest in a DAW of some type. My studio is only the size of a single garage with rockwool behind plasterboard walls, wood (laminate) floor and the recent addition of an Auralex alpha DST kit to help with acoustics. I play jazz guitar and want to record some good quality demos for solo jazz guitar, my jazz guitar duo and also my trio which has the addition of tenor sax.

    I did loads of research on the web and finally decided on a Carillon TI+ (http://www.carillondirect.com/clnweb/products.jsp?country=UK) which I was told would suit my purpose in that it would be quiet enough to record with mics in the same room. The TI+ was a new product and took quite a few months until it arrived. When the PC did arrive, it was extremely quiet and seemed like an excellent purchase until there was a problem with it turning itself off every now and again for no reason. I was sent a replacement which worked fine although was extremely noisy compared to the first one. The sound of the fans and airflow from the unit was way noisier than my desktop indoors which was an off the shelf Fujitsu Siemens PC of no great spec.

    Carillon apologised and agreed to send me their AC-1 D1 model as a replacement which is a monster compared to the TI+. I specifically asked if this unit would be quiet enough to have in the same room as my mics and they said that it would be no problem. When I received this third PC, it was also extremely noisy compared to the first one. The main noise is from the airflow coming from the vents although it seems to be audible from all round the unit. I decided to test the unit by setting up 2 Rode mics (NTK and NT1000) through my Firepod. I set the level so that my guitar was not clipping and recorded some stuff. As I expected, the Carillon PC could be heard very clearly on the recording even when I was set up at the far end of my studio. The recording meters in Sonar were about a quarter of the way up the scale with no other sounds other than the PC.

    What I am wondering is if anyone else out there has had the same problems with Carillon PCs or similar so called silent PCs. I was wondering after the second unit if it would be a good idea to send it all back and go for a Mac as they seem to be quiet. I obviously don't want to do the whole Mac vs PC thing but would this be an option?

    What I am really asking is what experiences people have had with a PC/Mac situated in the same room as mics when recording acoustic instruments. I play a seven string archtop jazz guitar through a Polytone amp. When recording, I have many options that I am going to try such as guitar direct into the firepod + two condensor mics on the guitar. However I get the best results, I will certainly need mics.

    Should I stick with the Carillon as it is an excellent spec machine for audio, put it in a rack and build some sort of cupboard around it to block out the sound or send it all back and try a different approach? I am completely stuck as to what to do now and anyone's help would be greatly appreciated!
  2. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    Maybe lube up the ball bearings in the fans.
  3. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    If there was any way to put a hole in a wall to another room, so you could put "the box" in it, sted the studio, you could, pretty much, avoid the noise issue, period. Having seen and heard alot of computers, it is, to me, a bit much to expect a truly quiet computer, anyway - studios, for many years have put their "machines" in other rooms, just the way it is. Quiet machines are possible, I suppose but not without going to more trouble and expense than they're worth - so much easier to just avoid the problem. Took about an hour, here, to cut a hole, run the cables, stuff the hole with an old beach towel, and fire-up a "noiseless install", as it were.

    Other than that, if the darned things you've purchased are noisy and the makers said they weren't, and you believe that somewhere out there there really are noiseless machines(PC or Mac?) you have no real option ofher than getting your money back and trying someone else's or building your own.

    Noise is relative, anyway...

    "What was that..?"

    I said, noise is...


    Oh, forget it....

  4. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    TeddyG has the right idea, I have my Daw in a closet that is connected to my studio. Extenion cables aren't that expensive. Its worth the cost to get the Daw into another room.

  5. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    Thanks for the advice. I thought about running the PC from another room although it is very frustrating when I have been promised a slient (or not wind turbine at least) machine. The first one that I was sent was extremely quiet although had other problems which leads me to thing that there is something wrong with this one. I was also thinking about putting it under my desk in a rack and building an insulated cupboard type of thing with rockwool panels maybe? The PC is rackable so that and the firepod in a box would be very handy.
  6. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There are commercial products out there that address this problem. They are acoustical enclosures that have special cooling built into them. They are expensive.

    I will take a wild guess and say that the first computer you got did not have working fans and that was why it kept turning itself off after a while.

    There are quieter fans out there see here...


    and read this article


    I would contact the manufacture and ask them to make the computer do what they promised you.

    One big noise factor in computers are the fans on the power supply. Most newer power supplies have fans that run at variable speeds so when they are not working as hard they run slower. This can be a great savings in the noise department but if you are running a computer that is maxed out with lots of extra boards and or a high grade video card that "feature" can be circumvented and you will always be running your power supply at maximum. Hense the increase in noise from the fan.

    Talk to the manufacture and see what ideas they have to offer.

    Best of luck and let us know how things are going....
  7. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    Thanks for the advice. I shall certainly phone the company tomorrow and see what they have to say. One of the problems I have is that I do not know how quiet PCs or Macs can be. After receiving the second noisy PC, I went to PC world in desperation and looked at Imacs and Macbooks. They seemed very quiet to me in the store but I realise that listening in a store gives me no idea of the noise level with everything else going on. A friend of mine has a macbook pro and says that his is very quiet although he lives too far away for me to go and listen.

    I am thinking that putting the gear into a rack and then building an insulated cupboard with absorbing materials on the inside to stop the sound 'bouncing' out of it might be my best bet.

    I shall keep you informed. Thanks again for everyone's help.
  8. TeddyG

    TeddyG Well-Known Member

    Sound absorption may help some, but what you need is sound PROOFING - sealing the sound the computer makes INSIDE something, like a box, whatever. This is real, real tough, as the computer needs cooling, which can easily be compromised by sealing the thing in a box.

    For now, DO NOTHING! Would be bad to burn-up the machine, while it's under warranty at least... Don't build anything - Call the manufacturer!

    Computers don't have to make any noise, but the one you bought may not be that machine? Truly silent PC's have things like completely passive cooling or even liquid cooling for every heat-generating piece of gear inside -- no fans at all. These options can be quite pricey - but if any of them are there, your manufacturer should know. If they are not there NOW, but can be, they should know how much it will cost you to "make it so".

    A quick look at a Carillon site(Great Britain? Is this the one???) mentioned "quiet", I believe, but I did not immediately notice anything about "silent"(One can quibble with quiet, but silent would be pretty definite.).

    For what it's worth, consider carefully even WANTING to buy a silent PC??? We would prefer to keep our machines running cool AND quiet, but it may be ALOT cheaper, and a WHOLE LOT more convenient to build-on a computer room to the side of the building to keep the thing in and not worry how much noise it makes..? We're not supposed to be computer geeks, we're supposed to be audio geeks. Let's not make this computer-thing any harder than we must -- put it out-of-sight so you don't have to even think about it...

  9. DIGIT

    DIGIT Guest

    >>I do not know how quiet PCs or Macs can be<<

    They can be near-silent if proper components are used.

    There are two major noise-causing deviced in a PC:

    1) Fans (CPU< power supply and CASE)

    2) hard drives

    Nowadays there are many 'silent' components. I have built a PC using such labelled components last year and it is virtually silent indeed. I would expect that a company that makes PCs and sells them at a premium should be able to do BETTER than I did, for sure.

    See also the newest Mac desktops, you'll hear next to nothing even if you are standing one foot away.

    My first move, if I were you, would be to either make the company keep their claim of a silent PC or take the computer back.

    IF you don't want to do that the only other alternative would be either put the PC and other noisy units in another room or build (or buy) a sound-proofed case.
  10. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    Yes it was the Carillon UK site that I was looking at. The site has actually been completely revamped since I purchased the PC. It was in May that I first ordered the Carillon Ti+ and was told there was a wait of a few weeks - not the 4 months or so of excuses until I received the unit!

    The site originally had a whole section bragging how silent the Carillon PCs were. There was a picture of one of their PCs on a pedestal type stand in a studio being monitored for noise level. They had a load of figures comparing their machines to one another and also to Macs. The figures looked very impressive and this is one of the main reasons that I went for the unit. I am wondering if that page is not now on the site as the figures are untrue of the latest machines.

    By the new Mac desktops do you mean the Imac? Are they really that silent? At the moment, I have the Carillon PC with Sonar studio edition and a load of other plugins and bits and bobs that they have thrown in with the Presonus Firepod. I was working out that I could get the 'Imac 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo' with full version of Logic and the Firepod by only spending an extra £236. I have a blank canvas of no music software at the moment so this might be a viable alternative. If the Imac is noisy, I then have the problem that the screen is built in so I could not have the unit in a seperate room without a 2nd screen. My studio is a converted garage so the 2nd room issue is quite difficult.

    A couple of my guitar students have brought laptops to the lesson recently and they seem totally silent compared to my current situation. Is the macbook quieter than an Imac desktop?

    It is a good point about the sound insulating cupboard idea. I was thinking about even building an insulated box to slide the racked up PC into. This would almost certainly overcook the unit!

    Sorry for so many questions but the situation is driving me crazy and I need to make up my mind what direction to take before I phone the company.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Here is my .02 cents worth.

    Many desktop computers these days now can be outfitted with quiet water cooling systems. That's correct, water cooling. They are extremely quiet. They have no fans, except myself and others. Of course the water cooling system is not inexpensive and costs upwards of $137 US to retrofit your machine. This includes CPU and power supply. However, it will leave you with a nearly dead silent desktop PC. Then you only have the noise of the little disk drive's quietly whirling in their little cases to contend with. That sounds so cute and adorable doesn't it?

    Conversely, I've never heard a noisy laptop and that might be the smarter way to go since it's also quite portable. I'm now using my Hewlett-Packard DV 8339 Intel dual core processor laptop for almost everything. I love its warmth and beautiful widescreen 17 inch display. Quite sexy. It seems to be quite stable with Windows XP media center edition. A beautiful machine.

    Shhhhh, don't wake the baby computer
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  12. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    Yes, water cooling. But they also take up space, so make sure you have enough to spare, and they need a front 5.25" (or whatever the standard CD drive space is called) bay so you can control the temp. Yes, you can also control the temperature with an LCD readout. I don't have liquid cooling, but my friend built a gaming computer that had it.
  13. Nirvalica

    Nirvalica Guest

    Yes, water cooling. But they also take up space, so make sure you have enough to spare, and they need a front 5.25" (or whatever the standard CD drive space is called) bay so you can control the temp. Yes, you can also control the temperature with an LCD readout. I don't have liquid cooling, but my friend built a gaming computer that had it.
  14. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    I went into my local shop today and had a look at the new Imac dual core machine. I was hoping that there would be a quiet room to test the volume of the unit but there was no where to go. The shop wasn't too large and I had a really good close up listen all round the machine. The only thing that I could hear was the noise of the PCs on the next aisle. I also had another hunt around the web and there seem to be so many people saying that their new intel imacs are virtually inaudable that I think I will jump ship and go with the Imac. (I don't want to offend any PC owners out there!)

    I don't have any software that I already use as my recording unit before was an Akai DPS 16. This unit was extremely noisy and was the reason I started on my whole quest. My friend has the same unit and put them side by side - mine is way noisier. Perhaps it's me! I am pretty sure that I will stick with the Firepod as this seems to be compatible with the Imac. I am thinking maybe go the Logic route as I don't think Sonar is compatible with Macs. It's a shame as I had already read the Sonar insider and various bits and pieces to do with Sonar in preparation. Maybe it's sometimes best not to be too prepared!
  15. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    The iMacs are very quiet. If you are doing extensive processing, like video, photo or intensive audio processing, you will hear the fan kick in. During tracking though I doubt you will ever hear it kick in. The only time I ever heard the fan kick in was during the firmware updates for the bootrom.

    Make sure you upgrade the RAM to at least 1gig. You will notice a large difference in performance. I would stay away from Logic unless you are familiar with it or are willing to put in some hours learning it. It's nowhere near as intuitive as Sonar. You might want to look into Cubase Studio 4 or Digital Performer. Both are a little more user friendly. Don't get me wrong. Logic is a powerful tool once you get past the learning curve. Personally I like to just open the program and go though. If can't get doing what I want in a few minutes, I consider it a waste of my time.

    Just my opinion.
  16. aracu

    aracu Active Member

    The issue is how to get a PC quiet without it heating up too much.
    Due to the laws of physics, very quiet sounds if multiplied do
    not add many decibels. That means that if you have many
    very quiet fans set to spin very slowly, using fan regulaters,
    they can produce the same airflow as 2 or 3 fans spinning fast, but producing an inaudible amount of sound unless you stick your ear
    right up to them. Also, the larger the case, the less it will heat up. If you take the trouble to mount the power supply outside the case, and use
    a high quality fanless power supply, then the inside of the computer
    will not heat up nearly as much and needs less airflow, which means
    less noise. Use large heatsinks on the cpu chip and video card combined
    with slow spinning fans. The hard drives can be made a lot quieter
    by sandwiching them between aluminum plates, which also helps
    to dissipate their heat. If you do all these things, there will still be some hard drive noise that gets through. I haven't been able to figure out
    a solution to that. For truly quiet recordings, it's best to use long
    cables and have the computer in another room.
  17. GregP

    GregP Guest

    Remy, your experience differes from mine. Every laptop I've heard is significantly noisier than my desktop. ;-)

    I do nothing particularly special, but it's not all just stock stuff. Here's the formula:

    1. Antec Sonata case (the original). I don't even use all the "silent" features, and stock out of the box it's not as silent as they claim. BUT, it has a good and quiet PSU, and lots of space for air to move.

    2. ONE 120mm "silent" case fan by some sort of name brand company... can't recall which one. I THINK it came with the case, but I can't remember.

    3. ONE Arctic Fox Freeze 64. It's a "medium-duty" silent heatsink-fan solution, with the one benefit (other than just being generally better than the stock AMD HSF) that really drew me in being that the fan is side-mounted, and points right out of the case fan... so the heat from the CPU (when there's any, which is rare) goes right out, without heating up the case. Motherboard ramps fan speed according to load.

    4. One of my drives mounted in the 3.5" drive bay and one in the 5.25" drive area, using 2 hemming elastics for each. Tie the elastics as "loops" in place, and then "twist" them around the drives in order to snug them into place. Between the elastics and the power/data cables, they stay fairly well put, but rigorous transportation would require giving them some attention.

    5. Passively-cooled everything except the CPU.

    6. Do NOT overclock... it's a heat (and therefore noise) disaster.

    I could get "reasonable" alternatives to any of those points except #4. As soon as you decouple your HDD from the chassis, your noise drops significantly. The caveat is that there is reason to believe that you diminish the life of your drives marginally, but to me this is a worthwhile tradeoff. Storage is the cheapest thing you can get.

    Total cost:

    $37 CDN for the Freeze 64. Everything else was free or pennies.

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